Messy but necessary

Monday was an important day. First, my bill, HB 617, was passed out of Ways and Means, which is part of a broader deal to provide much needed support for the City of New Orleans to address critical infrastructure and drainage needs. Secondly, a budget bill, HB 105, passed out of the Appropriations Committee and will now continue to the House floor so the Legislature can continue the important job of securing a responsible and effective budget.

The agreement reached between the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana was a long time in the making. It took many months and many voices to develop a plan that will ultimately help not only the people of New Orleans, but all Louisianans. People came together from the State, the City, the hospitality industry and the business community to hear each other out and make this historic deal happen in which the City of New Orleans will receive an upfront influx of $50 million infrastructure and drainage dollars, along with an additional $17.5 million over the next five years and recurring revenue in the amount of $26 million.

This is generally what constitutes the policymaking process. There’s a whole lot of talking, but, more importantly, there should also be a whole lot of listening. The budget bill passed Monday, HB 105, authored by the Chairman of Appropriations, Rep. Henry, is proof of the need to listen.

Last week, I submitted my proposed amendments to Rep. Henry’s budget bill in the hopes of creating a more equitable budget, because my budget bill, HB 103, is unlikely to escape the Appropriations Committee. My proposed amendments incorporated all of the $119 million in new revenue available to the State, including money for early childhood education, teacher and support worker raises, TOPS funding, healthcare and further investment in education.

Fortunately, Rep. Henry saw the value in my proposed amendments and decided to replicate the vast majority of them in his own bill. Now, Louisianans will not have to suffer because the budget doesn’t appropriate all of the money we have available to us. Now, teachers will get a pay raise that they desperately need and deserve. Although I do not agree with Rep. Henry on stripping an additional $39 million that would be the first influx of new money into K-12 classrooms in a decade and I will continue to fight for it, I ultimately recognize that this is a part of the process. But we have more work to do.

It is often said that making laws is like making sausage…it’s something you would rather not see. It’s a process that is messy but necessary, and we now have a budget bill that’s even better for it. This is proof that when we work together we can accomplish important things.

Walt Leger